In a former industrial zone, this city of almost 80,000 people has cropped up almost overnight.
Doral is just west of Miami International Airport (MIA) and has quickly become one of South Florida’s most productive local economies.
In the last few years alone, glitzy mixed-use developments like CityPlace Doral, Downtown Doral, and Midtown Doral have hit the ground running. So, there’s a small chance my article will be out of date when you read it.
Out of nowhere, Doral has become one of the best places to live, work, and play in the metropolitan area.
If you’re wondering about the name, Doral is a portmanteau. It comes from the first letters of the first names of 20th-century developer Alfred Kaskel and his wife Doris.
1. CityPlace Doral
Standing in the middle of this bustling mixed-use development, it’s mind-blowing to think that none of this existed until a few years ago
For me, CityPlace Doral feels like the ultimate neighborhood, with its tree-shaded streets, and awesome choice of dining, shopping and entertainment.
Everything comes together at the Central Plaza, an exciting gathering place equipped with a 720-square foot digital screen.
My kids were transfixed by the fountain here, putting on a light and sound show at the top of the hour.
Meanwhile, the seven-screen CMX theater opened in 2017, and has 4k projection, 7.1 Dolby surround sound, and comfy leather recliners.
2. Downtown Doral
A new town center for a booming city, downtown Doral is one of a number of giant mixed-use developments that now define the cityscape.
Here you’ve got boutiques, restaurants and other lifestyle services on palm-shaded streets. On either side of the main drag along NW 53rd Street are brand new skyscraping apartment buildings.
Green space is part of the plan, at the lush Downtown Doral Park, and White Course Park, which pays tribute to Doral’s golf heritage.
My favorite spot downtown is The Doral Yard, which has a live music stage out back, with something happening every weekend.
3. Dolphin Mall
The largest outlet shopping center in South Florida is moments away in Sweetwater. The Dolphin Mall opened in 2001 and has more than 240 outlets.
A few of the big brands when I came were Nike, Boss, Guess, Polo Ralph Lauren, Levi’s, Calvin Klein, Abercrombie & Fitch, Columbia, and Michael Kors.
You can easily make a day of it, and there’s a huge choice of dining options, from Cuban specialties to Brazilian steaks, and sushi.
The Dolphin Mall also stands out as an entertainment hotspot, with the CMX Dolphin 19, Bowlero Doral, Dave and Busters and Topgolf.
4. Doral Cultural Arts Center
A state-of-the-art hub for cultural events and art shows opened next to the City of Doral Government Center in 2022.
This 14,000-square-foot facility is the place to come for international and regional art exhibitions.
There’s public art across the grounds, with a monumental sculpture by Spanish artist Manolo Valdés at the entrance. Inside, are two airy galleries and a multipurpose space.
The center had only just been unveiled when I visited. But what stood out for me was the circular rooftop deck, which has a great view of downtown Doral.
5. Trump National Doral Golf Course
After the real-estate developer Alfred Kaskel purchased a chunk of the Everglades in the 1950s, the first thing he built was a golf resort.
From 1962 to 2006, this was the venue for the Doral Open on the PGA Tour. In recent times the resort has hosted events for the breakaway LIV Golf tour.
The Trump Organization took over in 2012, and embarked on a complete renovation of the facilities.
In 2019, this place was the focus of a political furore, as Donald Trump proposed to host the upcoming 46th G7 summit here.
There are four championship courses at Trump National Doral. The most celebrated of these is the Blue Monster, the previous venue for the Doral Open.
The signature hole is the par-4 18th, hailed as one of the Top 100 Holes in the World by GOLF Magazine.
6. The Trump Spa at Doral
The other reason to visit the Trump National Doral is for the top-of-the-line spa facility. There’s an extensive choice of energizing, restorative, and calming experiences available here.
Among the amenities are a sauna, steam room, jacuzzi, hot and cold plunges, a 24-hour fitness center, and four hard-surface tennis courts.
You can choose from a complete menu of massages and beauty treatments, from a citrus drench body scrub to manicure or 120-minute deep-tissue massage.
What I liked about this facility is that you get complimentary parking and access to the pool, fitness center and fitness class on the day of any spa service 50 minutes or longer.
7. Curtiss Mansion
A short way east along NW 36th St there’s a rare piece of local history, at a mansion built in 1925 for the trailblazing aviator and inventor, Glenn Curtiss (1878-1930).
Curtiss moved to Florida in 1920, and was instrumental in developing Miami Springs and Hialeah. His Pueblo Revival-style mansion has had a rocky history, including a long period of disrepair.
But things have changed since the City of Miami Springs took over in 1998, heralding long-term restoration work.
I had always been curious about this building, so I signed up for a Saturday tour. My docent was an expert on Curtiss, and told me all about his major innovations, in fields from naval aviation to motorcycling.
The mansion also has a busy calendar of public events, from concerts to car shows and Halloween haunts.
8. Miami International Mall
Opened back in 1982, this enclosed mall was here when there were only a few hundred people living in Doral.
More than four decades later, the Miami International Mall has stood the test of time, with more than 130 tenants.
It was hard to find an empty storefront when I took a look around, and I appreciate the lack of crowds compared to the Dolphin Mall.
A few of the many big retailers here are Mango, Kay Jewelers, Sephora, Footlocker, Macy’s, Old Navy, Victoria’s Secret, JCPenney and H&M.
9. Miami Improv
In sync with Doral’s growth, high-quality live entertainment is now part of life in the city. Along those lines, you’ve got Miami Improv, a comedy club and dinner theater.
This spot brings the laughs in an upscale but casual environment, presenting a roll-call of touring household names and local talent.
You can catch a famous stand-up comedian one night, and the next an hilarious sketch group.
I’ve come out west a few times for shows at the Miami Improv, catching Jay Pharoah and Daman Wayans in the last few years.
There are open mics every few weeks, comedy brunches and also comedy classes, if you think you’ve got what it takes.
10. Doral Glades Park
Until the 1950s Doral’s entire landscape was Everglades swampland, and you can get a small taste of this at Doral Glades Park.
This is one of the city’s newer parks, having opened in 2019 on the shores of the 12-acre Roseate Spoonbill Lake.
Of course, it will take a little time for this environment to mature, but the mangrove shoreline has already attracted wading birds like egrets and herons. You may see something special along the waterside nature trail and lighted boardwalk.
If you want to know more about South Florida’s ecosystems there’s a nature center in the park. I was impressed with touchscreen displays here, and I’m looking forward to seeing this place evolve.
11. Planet Air Sports
A number of family fun centers have taken over Doral’s former warehouses in the last few years.
If I had to pick just one place to bring your kids it would be Planet Air Sports. This spot stands alone for the sheer amount of activities available.
At its heart is a 46,000+ square foot trampoline park, where children and teenagers can literally jump all day if they have the energy. As well as a massive trampoline court, there’s a dodgeball area and three basketball hoops.
In addition, you’ve got several lanes of bowling, ropes courses, batting cages, VR games, bumper cars, a climbing wall, a ninja course, and a playground for toddlers.
Something I didn’t expect to see is an indoor ski slope simulator. Here you can experience the strange sensation of snowboarding or skiing in the heart of South Florida.
12. M.I.A. Beer Company
On NW 33rd Street, M.I.A. Beer Company is a slick craft brewery and taproom with a lineup of beers for all tastes.
These IPAs, light beers, sours and malty beers are made using traditional recipes, but with plenty of creative tweaks. M.I.A. sources only high-quality ingredients, mostly from Florida, and calls on Miami’s rich identity for inspiration.
This can be seen in the 80s-inspired packaging design, and at the fluorescent taproom. After trying a few, I’ve fallen in love with their Getaway IPA, brewed with Citra and Mosaic.
In terms of food, I can’t get enough of the handcrafted croquetas, filled with blue cheese, spinach, ham or cod.
13. Doral Central Park
At more than 80 acres, Doral Central Park is the largest in the city. This is a prime spot for the city’s public events like the Independence Day Celebration.
With a pleasant mix of open green spaces, treed areas, and a beautiful lake, it’s my go-to for a relaxing stroll.
If you’re here to be active, you’ve got a walking/jogging trail, almost a mile long, as well as outdoor exercise stations.
When I wrote this article, the park was in the middle of a series of upgrades.
Among the big additions in the pipeline are an amphitheater, a wetlands boardwalk trail, an outdoor aquatic venue, and an indoor recreation building.
14. Santa’s Enchanted Forest
For a few short weeks, a giant Christmas-themed amusement park takes over a piece of Doral.
Santa’s Enchanted Forest goes back more than four decades now, and is billed as the World’s Largest Holiday Theme Park.
When I wrote this article, the event had recently moved to a new, larger plot at the northwest corner of 87th Avenue and 74th Street.
This has become a tradition for me and my family. At the last edition there were more than 100 rides, shows, interactive games, and holiday displays.
And if you like fair food, you’re in for a treat. Last time out they had grilled corn, turkey legs, deep-fried oreos, and more at more than 50 stands.
15. Morgan Levy Park
Doral’s hub for active recreation has a wealth of amenities catering to the city’s growing population.
I’ll try to run through them here. So, you’ve got five hard-surface tennis courts, four basketball courts, two sand volleyball fields, and a trail with exercise equipment.
Most popular of all are the soccer fields, laid with synthetic turf that was resurfaced a couple of years ago.
When I was here recently, the park was spotless and everything looked like new.
There were families making the most of the picnic pavilions, and there was a wedding reception at the community center in the park.